(Pocket-lint) - The Hyundai Kona Electric quickly became one of our favourite electric cars following its launch in 2018.
Sitting alongside the Kia e-Niro, Hyundai offered the Kona in various guises - with hybrid and combustions versions - a strategy that continues in this most recent version.
What the Kona offers is crossover charms with pure electric power - including a range that's respectable and prices that are approachable.
The Hyundai Kona Electric comes from a strong position, making a number of tweaks in this new version to update the experience over the incumbent.
For those with a Kona already, moving to the new model would be very familiar, while the core underpinnings - the options for power and batteries - are very much as they were before.
What's really changed is the competition: there are many more models to choose from, with cheaper and more compact models like the Mini Electric or Honda e, through to closer rivals like the Vauxhall Mokka-e or Peugeot e-2008.
But the Hyundai Kona Electric remains one of the best electric cars for the cost and range that you get. It's great for small families, with that 64kW option really appealing.
Hyundai Kona Electric
- Great range for the money
- Comfortable ride
- Efficient use of power
- Easy trim selection without too many options
- Not the highest quality cabin
- Increasing competition in this segment
- A little cramped in the rear seats
- User interface looks a little dated
The design of the Kona Electric has been simplified slightly over the previous outing. Fundamentally, this is a facelift of the compact crossover, so it's instantly recognisable as the Kona.
There's a new front bumper, enclosing the area that previously had a covered grille. The grille remains on the hybrid and combustion version, but the Electric model now gets a better front design, looking a little more refined, a little more loved.
From the sides the looks are broadly the same, but there are some bodywork changes resulting in a slightly simpler look. Plastic wheel arches and other detailing has been removed from the Kona Electric, while also providing a point of distinction from the combustion engine models.
The result is a slightly cleaner look, while the regular gas-guzzling Kona looks a little more rugged with those plastic wheel arch protectors. If nothing else, it's easy to spot the electric on the road now, thanks to the slight shift in styling.
There are some minor exterior differences between the trim levels offered - SE Connect, Premium, Ultimate - but that mostly amounts to how premium the lower section of the front bumper looks. As is often the way with Hyundai, there aren't a whole world of options, instead different spec is dictated by those different trim levels.
That makes selecting your model easier: we suspect the most popular will be the Premium, which offers a choice of battery sizes, but still comes in at a price that qualifies for the UK's Plug-in Car Grant, saving you £2500 off the larger 64kWh version. What you're getting is a well equipped car for under £30K, with decent range too.
Minor interior updates
The interior of the Kona Electric hasn't seen huge changes over the existing model - the largest noticeable difference being the move to a fully digital driver display.
The Kona is comfortable and roomy enough in the front, but the rear seats are a little more cramped. Put a tall driver in the front and you'll be left with minimal legroom in the rear, so it's really only then suitable for smaller children, but there is plenty of headroom, which saves it from feeling too cramped.
The highest level trim gets the option for leather facings and lighter colours, while the lower trims have a black interior, which, if nothing else, won't show up so much muck if you're transporting a young family around - which many Konas will be.
On the Ultimate trim we tested, there are leather touch-points, but fairly wide use of harder plastics of various textures. As we said, this isn't out of place given the price of the car - and for those who want something superior the Ioniq 5 is worth a look as an alternative. Although it's easy to point to higher-priced cars with interiors that are obviously higher quality, it's really hard to complain about the Kona at this price point.
Ultimate trim does bring some luxury, with seat heating and cooling for those front seats, however, with that cooling being rather more unique.
The boot is a little compact, offering 332 litres of space, although the rear seats will fold to increase the capacity if needed. For many, as a daily run-around, that's plenty of space for the weekly shop, but broadly aligns with the Citroën ë-C4 and others around this price point. There's a small storage tray under the floor of the boot, but not much space for anything else.
All in, it's an interior that fits its purpose. So long as you can accept that the Kona is a pretty compact crossover, because it's in the back seats that you'll feel that the most.
One of the interior changes that we mentioned is the digital driver display. This replaces a display that had a single central dial and gives a lift to the driving experience, although it does seem to be sunken quite deep within the cowl. No matter, it's clear enough with a left-hand speedo and right-hand power meter.
We like that Hyundai presents plenty of data on this display, like the average mileage you're achieving from that battery, which will help you get a better picture of how you're driving.
The centre section allows you to leaf through information, such as more data, so there's a small degree of customisation too. Importantly, it's all clear enough to understand, which can't be said about all car displays. As you switch through drive modes it will change colour too, with red for Sport, of course, to make it a little more 'racy' looking.
The central display is flat, there's no curving of the cabin towards the driver, with a run of buttons beneath it to take you to where you want to go - including a customisable button. Two dials mean it's easy to work with, while also supporting touch, although the volume knob seems a stretch, better placed for the passenger than the driver. Fortunately, there are comprehensive controls on the steering wheel too.
Again there's easy access to information on how efficiently you're driving and where the nearest public charger is. Some of the graphics look a little dated, but with support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, there's plenty of flexibility - even if those smartphone-based systems don't fill the entire screen.
There's a little crossover into the driver's display - you can see the audio you're playing, for example - but otherwise the buttons remain pointing to Hyundai's systems. That means that if you're driving with Google Maps through Android Auto, for example, and you press the Maps button, it will revert to the Hyundai system, leaving you to dig through the system to find your way back to Android Auto.
Despite some of Hyundai's graphics looking a little dated, there's actually a lot of information that's useful. You can drill into what's using your charge, find your average consumption, plus more. You can also easily find navigation options to take you to an electric car charger, but like so many systems, it doesn't have all the chargers and lists some that you can't actually use, like in private car parks.
But you can easily navigate to chargers and you have the option to nominate your favourites, so you can easily navigate to those in a particular area easily, without having to look through the huge list. The navigation itself is good, with a useful side window in the display that will give you core stats and quick nav to those chargers.
Drive and range
With a poke of the D button you will be on your way in blissful silence. Buttons are becoming more common for these drive functions, with gear or drive selectors being replaced with simpler interactions. What's perhaps strange is that the drive mode selector is right at the back of the centre console alongside the seat heating controls - you have the reach behind you to access it, so it's not hugely practical while actually driving.
That's if you actually feel you need to use the modes. Eco is a little muted, but delivers the best economy; Normal is a little more spritely; while Sport will probably be a little too virgourous for some. We suspect that those buying the Kona won't be doing so for speed, so Eco may well be the best mode to select and leave the car in.
As mentioned, there are two battery capacities available for the Kona, which plays a big part in dictating the price. The smaller battery is 39kWh and is the only option for the lowest SE Connect trim, paired with a 100kW/136PS motor. The larger battery is 64kWh and is available as an option for the Premium trim, while also being the size you get on the Ultimate trim - paired with a 150kW/204PS motor, so there is going to be a performance difference between the trims based on the options you choose.
That's why we suspect the Premium with the 64kWh battery will be the most popular, because it gives you the best performance for the money and will likely offer the same driving experience as the Ultimate.
Having spent time driving the Kona in various conditions, it's fairly easy to get over 5 miles per kWh. Typical suburban driving in Eco mode gave us an average of 5.6 miles per kWh, which on the 64kWh battery would return a range of 358 miles. Of course real-world driving is often more varied, but even in more carefree driving, you'll likely hit the 4.5 miles per kWh mark, which is 288 miles - again, close to the cited range for this model.
That latter figure is closer to what you'll achieve on motorway driving, but bear in mind this varies depending on temperature, how loaded the car is, and how heavy your right foot is. What's most encouraging is that the Kona Electric feels economical - it's not hard to get good range and with little details like the ability to restrict the fan to the driver only; it all feels well considered.
The cited range for the 39kWh battery version is 198 miles, but again, the averages will vary around that figure.
The achievable range will depend on how you drive the car, with Eco and Eco+ modes in place to help you reduce the wonton dispersal of power. At the top Sport level you have the twitchiest throttle response (giving you that 0-62mph time of 7.9 seconds), and the lowest regeneration on lift-off.
Hyundai offers paddles on the steering column to manually shift the level of regen, so you can be driving in Eco and choose to turn off the regen if you just want to coast down a hill without slowing down. Once you're in the mindset of how regeneration works, this makes it really easy to be more engaged with the drive.
As with other electric cars, the drive is super smooth and it's comfortable too. That was the impression we had of the previous model and we still think that Hyundai has a great formula here, offering practical range and reasonable prices, in a car size that's hugely popular.
Added to the mix is support for 100kW charging, which while not the fastest out there, will get you back on the road pretty quickly when you hook up to a fast charger.
The facelift model look a little better around the front, while inside the tech is bolstered with a digital display. At its core, the range for the price and battery size options makes this a compelling crossover for those wanting to go electric.